Climate change: Northern Ireland students to pursue new qualifications

Students at GCSE or AS level in Northern Ireland may now be able to study for a new qualification on climate change and environmental actions starting in September.

Climate change: Northern Ireland students to pursue new qualifications

Students at GCSE or AS level in Northern Ireland may now be able to study for a new qualification on climate change and environmental actions starting in September.

The Department of Education (DE) has approved the course Reducing Carbon Footprints Through Environmental Action.

Open College Network, Northern Ireland (OCN NI) awards the new qualification.

It is the equivalent of GCSE, and will be evaluated by coursework, not exams.

The introduction of a new GCSE in natural history has been made in England. It teaches students about climate change and how we can protect our planet.

The national exams body in Scotland has stopped asking students to explain the "positive" effects on climate change as part a geography course.

Many students in Northern Ireland are already familiar with environmental topics, such as geography. But the new qualification brings them all together in one course.

It also includes modules about understanding carbon's role in climate change, single-use plastics and climate campaigning.

Charlene McKeown is Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful's environmental education manager. She has contributed to the creation of resources for schools that teach this subject.

She stated that "there's a definite need to have our young people become aware of what an environmental crisis they are essentially living with and about to face." BBC News NI.

"At the moment, there is a large gap in our curriculum regarding environmental education specifically focusing on the climate crisis.

"We believe that this is a quick way for teachers to get involved in the project instead of waiting for curriculum changes."

The number of students who take the new qualification will depend on the number of schools that offer it to AS-level or GCSE students.

Before the new course was introduced, most students had already chosen their GCSE options for 2022-23.

Ms McKeown stated that there are currently three to four schools that have put it up for consideration.

"But it will likely be the next academic school when we see the massive influx and, truly, teachers getting the opportunity to get trained up for it."

She said that it was being considered by some schools to be an option for students studying AS-levels, and that there were plans to create an A-level similar to the one she described.

In recent years, there have been protests from young people in Northern Ireland calling for more government action on climate change.

Anna Kernahan, a student from Northern Ireland, participated in the COP26 summit. It was a United Nations conference that took place in Glasgow last year.

She stated that the new qualification was a "really good step in the right direction".

"People must be educated about the climate. How else will they know it and want to change it?" She said.

"They need to be educated about the greatest crisis humanity will ever face."

"Right now young people don’t know enough about it. They would be interested in learning more about it if they had the opportunity to do so.

She said, "The world must be more climate-friendly."

"There isn't a single subject that schools currently teach that wouldn't be enhanced and enriched by learning more about the climate crisis."

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